I Am the Cheese

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"I Am the Cheese"
First edition
AuthorRobert Cormier
CountryUnited States
GenreYoung adult novel, crime fiction
PublisherPantheon Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback)
Pages233 pp (first edition)
LC ClassPZ7.C81634 Iac[1]

I Am the Cheese is a young adult novel by the American writer Robert Cormier, published in 1977.


The novel opens with protagonist Adam Farmer biking from his home in the fictional town of Monument, Massachusetts (based on Cormier's home town of Leominster, Massachusetts[citation needed]) to visit his father in Rutterburg, Vermont. The story alternates with transcripts of tapes between a "subject" and Brint. The subject receives psychotherapy and is interrogated by Brint.

As the book continues, it is revealed that Adam is the subject, who was formerly Paul Delmonte of a small New York town. His father, "David Farmer", was a newspaper reporter who was enrolled in the Witness Protection Program (WPP). The family moved to Monument and escaped several close calls with their identities, but the parents are killed in the penultimate chapter in a car collision. Adam/Paul survives, and is taken to a government mental asylum. The last chapter implies that WPP agents killed the family, and reveals that Paul is regularly interrogated on the topic. Each time, Paul is unable to handle his realizations of his past and embarks on his delusion bike ride across the ground of the facility. At the end of the last tape, Brint recommends authorization to kill Adam.


  • Adam Farmer (Paul Delmonte) – teenage protagonist
  • David Farmer (Anthony Delmonte) - Adam's father, an insurance agent and former newspaper man.
  • Louise Farmer/Delmonte - Adam's mother
  • Amy Hertz - Adam's friend and love interest
  • Brint - Adam's questioner and "guide" as his psychotherapist
  • Mr. Grey - agent in the Witness Protection Program
  • Arthur - a fat man in the town of Hookset who tells Adam of Junior Varney
  • Dr. Dupont - a friendly doctor in a mental hospital; Adam is his patient
  • Junior Varney - a troublemaker and thief in Hookset
  • Whipper and friends - bullies in Carver
  • Old man by the gas station - warns him about trusting strangers
  • The elderly couple - the man helps him out of the ditch, while the women criticizes him


This quote is the last verse from "The Farmer In The Dell", a song that Adam sings during the book:

The cheese stands alone
The cheese stands alone
Heigh-ho, the merry-o
The cheese stands alone

He sings many of these songs throughout the novel. The song contains several characters, each taking someone with them when the farmer leaves, yet the cheese has nobody.

Adam believes that he is the cheese. He is alone in the world, his mother dead and his father missing, and he lives in a hospital. He thinks that he is not wanted anymore. Also, as in other works by Cormier, there is a dual meaning to the title. The words "I am the cheese" may also represent Adam's feelings of entrapment: he is the bait used to lure his parents to their murders.[original research?]

Another point is that his father had taught him the song, possibly in a way to reinforce the new name, 'Farmer', they had adopted.

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

The 1975 novel I Am the Cheese began Cormier's experimentation with first-person, present-tense narration. When Cormier sent the manuscript to the publisher of his previous novel, The Chocolate War, he was confused and depressed, convinced that he was alienating his new young adult audience because of the complex and ambiguous story. However, I Am the Cheese proved to be a success.

Awards and nominations[edit]

I Am the Cheese was named to five annual book lists according to the publisher description of the 20th anniversary edition.[1] It won the 1997 Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association as the best English-language children's book that did not win a major award when it was originally published twenty years earlier. It is named for the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, to suggest the book's rise from obscurity.[2]

Film adaptations[edit]

I Am the Cheese was released as a movie in 1983, directed by Robert Jiras and starring Robert MacNaughton, Hope Lange, Don Murray, Lee Richardson, Cynthia Nixon and Robert Wagner. The screenplay was written by David Lange (Hope Lange's brother) and Robert Jiras.[3]

Publication history[edit]

  • 1977, USA, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-83462-3, Pub date ? ? 1977, hardback (First edition)
  • 1977, USA, Laurel-Leaf Library, ISBN 0-440-94060-5, Pub date ? ? 1977, ? binding
  • 1977, UK, Victor Gollancz, Ltd, ISBN 9780575023727[4]
  • 1977, UK, Fontana Lions
  • 1997, Knopf, 20th anniversary edition, ISBN 9780394834627, "with a new introduction by the author[4]
  • 2007, Knopf, 30th anniversary edition (1st Knopf trade paper) "includes Reader's Guide and interview with the author"[4]

WorldCat libraries report holding Danish (1986), Catalan (1987), Spanish (1998), Chinese, Polish, Serbian and Korean-language editions.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "I am the cheese" (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
  2. ^ "Phoenix Award Brochure 2012"[permanent dead link]. Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
    See also the current homepage "Phoenix Award".
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 11, 1983). "Movie Review: I Am The Cheese (1983)". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d "Formats and Editions of I am the cheese". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-12-13.

External links[edit]